Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of people supporting Mohamed Mursi held scattered marches across Egypt in an attempt to keep pressure on authorities, who are rounding up their leaders and putting them behind bars after a bloody crackdown last week.
Holding photos of Mursi and waving Egyptian flags, demonstrators moved through the Cairo and Giza districts of Ramsis, Helwan and Haram, footage aired by Al Jazeera showed. Mursi supporters also took to the streets in the governorates of Aswan, Suez, Minya and Fayoum, state-run Ahram Online said.
The rallies are taking place against a political backdrop made even more fraught by the release of Hosni Mubarak from prison yesterday. It was a stunning development for many who took part in the 2011 uprising that toppled him, and some critics say Egypt’s current leadership, installed by the military, is out to reprise the police state Mubarak once led.
Mubarak was transfered to military hospital in Cairo yesterday, at a time when the country he once led is reeling over the army’s removal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi. About 1,000 people died in clashes touched off when security forces stormed two pro-Mursi protest camps on Aug. 14, and Mubarak’s release threatens to inflame the political crisis.
“We’re already caught up in numerous confrontations so the last thing that Egypt needs is bringing the Mubarak issue out,” Ziad Akl, a researcher at the Cairo-based Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said by phone. He said fears that Mubarak’s release will somehow lead to the return of his regime are “nonsense” because it is “basically dead.”
The Anti-Coup Alliance called on its supporters to join the “Friday of Martyrs” marches that were called to depart from 28 mosques in Cairo and Giza after prayers. It wasn’t clear if demonstrators were planning to gather at a particular focal point in the capital, as they have in previous marches.
The government declared a month long state of emergency after it broke up the protest camps, and the rallies called for today are to be the first mass gatherings of Mursi supporters in days. The cabinet said in a note to reporters that Friday prayers in two mosques in the areas of the dispersed sit-ins were canceled so the buildings could be repaired.
The 2 1/2 years since Mubarak was toppled have been marked by growing rifts, deepening poverty and eruptions of violence, a far cry from the dreams of a better life that protesters had when they ended his three-decade rule, demanding he be brought to justice for abuses and corruption they say he committed.
Mubarak, 85, was freed from Torah prison a day after a court ordered his release in relation to a case involving gifts from a state-run organization. Other cases on which he was held, including a retrial for his alleged role in the death of protesters in 2011, will continue. He’s also standing trial on corruption-related charges.
State-run Ahram Online said Mubarak had made a personal request to be transfered to the Maadi Military hospital, citing unidentified court officials. His travel ban remains in effect.
The Brotherhood, whose leadership has been rounded up since Mursi’s July 3 ouster, says “remnants” of the old regime, which barely tolerated the group, played a key role in deposing Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president.
“Mubarak is free, while free men are imprisoned,” read a post on the Twitter account of the main alliance backing Mursi.
Assistant Interior Minister Abdel-Fatah Othman said authorities arrested Ahmed Aref, the Brotherhood’s spokesman. The group’s spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, was arrested earlier this week, and hundreds of members are in custody.
The struggle is raising the cost of financing the budget gap and leaving little room for the government to spur growth.
Yields on local-currency debt are rising from two-year lows hit after Mursi’s ouster. Egypt sold one-year notes at an average 12.86 percent this week, more than twice what Lebanon pays for its local debt. The budget gap may widen to 12 percent by year-end from 11 percent in 2012, according to the average of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg, the highest among 65 countries it tracks.
With the nation mired in turmoil, some people spoke up for their former leader.
Mubarak is a “good man,” doorman Khaled Hassan said. “This man loves the country and he had the courage to stay in it when he had a chance to flee like others.”
Others held fast to the principles of the popular revolt that forced him from office.
“With Mubarak’s release many of the men from his regime will be emboldened to take part in politics, but that won’t scare us away or stop us from standing up for our rights and against tyranny,” Sarah Ahmed, 23, said in downtown Cairo, shortly before Mubarak’s transfer to the military hospital.
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